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Q-and-A: Dot Foods’ Dick Tracy on adopting GS1 US standards

4 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Dick Tracy, executive vice president of foodservice at Dot Foods, has led the redistributor’s active involvement in the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative since the 2009 launch. Dot has served as a leader in the initiative by being one of the first companies involved to receive product information through the Global Data Synchronization Network, a GS1 data-sharing platform for industry trading partners. As the youngest child of Dot founders Robert and Dorothy Tracy, Dick Tracy has served in the family business for 30 years. He is active in the International Foodservice Distributors Association, a member of Dot’s board of directors and recently was elected to the Executive Leadership Committee of the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative.

What has been the most beneficial part of adopting GS1 standards?

We know that bad item data obtained from manufacturers was costing our business at least $1.5 million every year. When the case-dimensions, cube or weight information is off, it drives up costs for the entire supply chain, not just ours. In addition, distributors and their operator customers need nutritionals, ingredient lists, images and cooking instructions on the products they buy. We could not respond effectively to all of this until the industry got behind these standards.

What aspect was the most difficult to adopt?

Initially, we had some technical challenges integrating the Phase 1 product data (transactional information) into our homegrown system. We also wanted to protect the integrity of the suppliers’ data and hold them accountable for the accuracy of the information they provided — easier said than done.

Getting the supplier’s information for Phase 2 product data (nutritionals, ingredients, images, cooking instructions) was difficult because this information is often inaccurate or residing in separate databases. There is a need to pull everything together and make sure the information is accurate. Most Phase 1 attributes (dimensions, weights, etc.) were already being published to retail customers. Phase 2 information wasn’t available through the GDSN because manufacturers hadn’t put the processes in place, nor do they quickly see the value in doing so.

How does the availability of enhanced product data benefit foodservice operators and restaurant managers?

Operators need to know the details about the products they buy so they can set them up in their system and make informed sourcing decisions. When this information is missing or inaccurate, it drives up their costs in fixing mistakes and in wasting time looking for basic facts.

How can restaurants pass these benefits onto their customers?

We are all customers of the restaurant industry. Everyone expects to receive good food at a reasonable price that is safe to eat, without having to wait too long. Consumers want to know nutritional information and ingredients on the food for health reasons, allergies or religious purposes. Restaurants can’t meet consumers’ information needs, nor can they provide high-level service at an affordable cost, without easy access to accurate information.

How will adoption of GS1 standards improve the relationship between distributors and their customers?

The foodservice industry, like most industries, is faced with increasing federal regulation. Manufacturers, distributors and operators all have to work closer together in the future on things such as menu labeling and food traceability. GS1 standards provide the foundation for this work and will enable everyone to provide better service, safer products and lower costs.

What is the next step for Dot Foods in terms of adopting GS1 standards?

We plan to expand the number of our suppliers implementing foodservice-product information for Phase 1 and 2, as well as publish outbound to distributors when appropriate. We are developing a data-accuracy program to maintain the integrity of that information. We’ve recently integrated Phase 2 information into the Dot Expressway website so customers can get a nicely formatted e-mail of this marketing and nutrition information. By early 2013, the search function on the Dot Expressway will allow customers to filter results on this data.

Lastly, we are in the process of rolling out a receiving process that involves us utilizing advance ship notices and scanning GS1-compliant bar codes. We strongly believe that GS1 standards are a game changer for our industry and are committed to doing what we can to increase their acceptance in the future.